Mission Trip Information
Before You GoPray
• Typhoid – shot is good for 2 years, oral vaccine is good for 5 years• Hepatitis A series• Hepatitis B series• Rabies• Routine (especially tetanus, which is required every 7 years)
• Malaria preventative (check with your personal physician)
Fill out and sign the Personal Information Form (appendix 1) and the Permissions and Liability Release form (appendix 2), and send them to your Team Leader at least one month prior to your departure date. He will use the information on these forms to enroll you in the ministry’s Volunteer Missionary Travel Insurance program. The cost for this insurance is included in your trip fee. A summary of benefits from the program is given in appendix 3.
Unless the traveler lives in Florida, a mission trip to northern Haiti will require an overnight stay in Florida. The only known commercial flights arriving in Cap Haitien on the day of departure, leave from the U.S. early in the morning. Where you spend your night in Florida depends on the particular flight(s) you choose.
Our ministry predominately uses Missionary Flights International (MFI) for traveling to and from Haiti. MFI is a Christian missionary organization that serves a multitude of missionary organizations working in Haiti. The MFI flights are a little slow (5 hours), but are hassle-free (no pat-downs) and have only Christians aboard.
MFI has one-stop (for refueling) flights from Ft. Pierce, FL, to Cap Haitian, Haiti on Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week. Flights leave at 7:00 a.m. and return about 5:00 p.m. MFI flights are generally full, so reservations for MFI flights are required two months or more in advance. For more information on MFI, see their web site, http://missionaryflights.org.
MFI has an arrangement with the nearby Fairfield Inn & Suites in Ft. Pierce, whereby MFI passengers get a corporate rate for the overnight stay. Reservations can be made by calling the motel at (772) 462-2900. Be sure to tell them you are flying MFI when making your reservations. The motel serves a better than average continental breakfast with your room, and several restaurants are within walking distance for your evening meal.
Your mission trip will be to Cap Haitien in the northern department of Haiti, not far from where one of Columbus’ ships, the Santa Maria, ran aground and sank in 1492. Cap Haitien is Haiti’s second largest city, with a population estimated at nearly 1,000,000 people. It is located on an inlet of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is a port for sea-going vessels. Cap Haitien is approximately 95, miles as the crow flies, due north of Port-au-Prince. By bus it is an arduous trip over unpaved and poorly maintained mountain roads; consequently, traveling by bus from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien is dangerous and should not be attempted.
Our mission headquarters is in an urban neighborhood of Cap Haitien, a few blocks off the main highway that runs through the city and only 5 minutes from the Cap Haitien airport. The ministry’s urban church is not far from the headquarters, and the two rural churches are approximately 15 miles outside of Cap Haitien (in opposite directions). The ministry currently has two vehicles, a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Toyota Tacoma Crew Cab truck for transporting work teams.
Your housing while in Cap Haitien is within a tall security fence with a locked gate and is quite secure. At this time work teams occupy three rooms in the National Director’s large home. Two bathrooms are set aside for work teams. Bathrooms have running (but not drinkable) water with showers and flush toilets. A new dormitory for work teams is under construction at this same location, and is scheduled to be completed during 2011. Delicious, Haitian-style meals are prepared and served by Haitian ladies.
Many travelers find it advisable to divide their packed items into two parts:
(1) A smaller carry-on bag or backpack with items you may need during the flight or which you cannot afford to lose (or have the airline lose).
(2) A checked suitcase with the remainder of the items needed during your stay in Haiti.
While this is not essential, it could prevent some significant inconvenience or discomfort. Our recommended list of things to bring will be divided this way. The lists below are formatted as a check list. When you have packed the item, check it off!
□ Passport (valid for more than 6 more months)
□ One quarter roll of toilet paper in a Ziploc bag
□ Airline tickets (if flying commercial)
□ Snacks (for while in transit)
□ Poncho with hood
□ Small bottle of hand sanitizer
□ Gum (for ear popping)
□ Book to read during travel down times
□ Hat (with brim)
□ Pen & paper
□ Photocopy of your passport
□ Toilet kit
□ Soap in a Ziploc bag
□ Wash cloth & towel
□ Insect repellent (40% DEET recommended)
□ Sunscreen (30 SPF or greater recommended)
□ Personal snacks (food bars, raisins, cheese crackers, beef jerky, etc.)
□ Small flashlight
□ Journal & pen
□ Dirty clothes bag
□ Work clothes, as appropriate (see recommendations)
□ Casual clothes (see recommendations)
□ Church clothes (see recommendations)
□ Swimsuit (when beach time is scheduled)
□ Water bottle (empty)
□ Ear plugs (if noise disturbs your sleep)
□ Extra shoes
□ Roll of toilet paper
□ Bandana (depending on planned activities)
□ Plastic hangers (for hanging clothes at mission headquarters)
□ Extra batteries (optional)
This climate dictates clothing be summer weight, preferably wash & wear fabrics, and in light colors. There are no dryers in Haiti, and 100% cotton clothing, when damp, may not dry before your time to come home.
All clothing should of modest & tasteful cut. Women’s skirts or dresses should be below the knee. Tee shirts should be loose fitting and not have offensive graphics.
□ Work pants (blended fabrics— all-cotton jeans are usually too hot)
□ Shorts (only when manual labor outdoors is planned)
□ Tee shirts or polo shirts (no tank tops)
□ Ball cap
□ Old sneakers
□ Bandana (to keep sun off neck)
□ Small sweat towel (optional)
Church Clothes - Men
□ Long pants
□ Shirt with collar (or dress shirt & tie to better honor the Haitian culture)
□ Decent looking shoes (not sneakers or flip flops)
□ Dress coat (if weather is not too hot)
Church Clothes - Women
□ Dress or skirt (no slacks, shorts or short skirts, please)
□ Tops and blouses must cover the shoulders
□ Hat (optional—many Haitian ladies wear hats to church)
□ Jewelry is not recommended
□ Shorts are fine during down times around the team’s quarters)
□ Tee shirt
□ Flip flops or sandals (also for night trips to the restroom)
□ Women’s clothing should be tasteful and not revealing
The World Fact Book, issued by the CIA, lists the breakdown of religious denominations in Haiti as: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3%. Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti, but voodoo may be considered the country's national religion. The majority of Haitians believe in and practice at least some aspects of voodoo (see below). Most voodooists believe that their religion can coexist with Catholicism. Most Protestants, however, strongly oppose voodoo. Despite the dark influence of voodooism, Haiti is considered to have the fastest growing Protestant Christian population in the Western Hemisphere.
What is voodoo? Voodoo is a system of spirit worship brought to Haiti by slaves from Africa. In 1791, leaders of a slave revolt against France held a secret voodoo meeting in a mountain above Cap Haitien (then named Cap Francais) at which they dedicated their country to evil spirits. After their victory over Napoleon’s armies in 1804, they attributed their success to voodoo. As recently as 2004, then President Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, renewed this vow. Voodooism is undoubtedly Satanic. People who practice voodoo believe that everything, good or bad, happens at the whim of spirits; for example, if the spirits are angry with you they can make you sick. This contributes to the extreme poverty in Haiti. Many Haitians believe that thy have no control over their destiny, so they take no responsibility to improve their situation in life. Americans frequently tend to view voodoo rather differently than what it is in Haiti. It is a very strong force in their religion and culture. The missionary that goes there would be well served by doing some research on the topic…from the spiritual point of view, not the secular.
The Christian churches in Haiti look much different than those in the U. S. The buildings and furniture will be very plain. Most are built of concrete blocks and have a corrugated metal roof. Few have electricity or glass windows. In our ministry’s churches the school benches do double duty by serving as pews on Sunday. Haitian Christians are very expressive in their worship services. Music is very important to them, and they love to sing. A typical service will include singing of many hymns (many of the tunes you will recognize) in either Creole or French, and there is frequently special music by one or more small groups—often from another church. You will find excitement in their preaching, as well, with many an “amen” from the congregation along the way. Services tend to run a good bit longer than those in the U. S., up to two or more hours.
There is a wide economic gulf between the masses and a small, wealthy class. Social status is generally marked by the degree of French words used in speech, straightening of hair, and often color of skin. The wealthiest people tend to be lighter-skinned or white; however, many of Haiti’s presidents and military leaders have been dark-skinned. Rural women play a prominent economic role in the household and family. In most areas, men plant gardens, but women are thought of as the owners of harvests and, because they are marketers, typically control the husband's earnings.
Haitians have a strong sense of propriety. Despite their poverty, they do not want to appear to be inferior, especially to foreign visitors. This is manifested in many ways. They
may be offended, for example, if you photograph them without permission, especially if they sense your photograph is taken to show them as an example of their need. Haitian Christians will wear their best clothes to church, and most women will have their heads covered, as well, while in church.
Even if strong in their faith, most Haitians will not attend church if they do not have “proper” clothes, especially shoes. A Haitian wedding will usually have most of the trappings of an American wedding—formal clothing, a wedding cake, a reception, etc.
Haitian people feel very strongly about greetings. This importance is particularly strong in rural areas where people who meet along a path or in a village often say hello several times before engaging in further conversation or continuing on their way. Men shake hands on meeting and departing, men and women kiss on the cheek when greeting, women kiss each other on the cheek, and rural women kiss female friends on the lips as a display of friendship. Women, and especially men, commonly hold hands in public as a display of friendship; this is commonly mistaken by foreign visitors as homosexuality.
Men and especially women are expected to sit in modest postures. Haitians say excuse me (eskize’m) when entering another person's space. Haitians are sensitive about their breath, and brushing the teeth is a universal practice. People also go to great lengths to not have an offensive body odor, either by bathing or by using cologne.
Yes, clothing is a very visible and important part of the culture of Haiti. Women wear dresses of modest length, never slacks or shorts. Men wear long pants, never shorts, unless working in the field. Haitians like bright colors, and this is typically reflected in their dress. School uniforms are the norm in Haiti, and tend to be of bright colors and/or distinctive patterns. In rural areas many children often go naked until school age or later.
Haitian Christians are offended by tattoos, so it is best to keep them covered, whenever possible.
Haitian Christians are offended by cigarette smoking, so smoking in public should not be done. If you are a smoker, you can use the roof at mission headquarters to smoke.
1. DO - Be prepared for changed plans. Rain, civil unrest or breakdowns in equipment can cause planned activities to be rescheduled or canceled.
2. DO - Keep your passport and valuables at mission headquarters. Also, have a copy of your passport separate from your real passport.
3. DO - Be considerate of your fellow team members in being prompt for outings, meals and observing “lights out” at bedtime.
4. DO - Drink lots of fluids. You can dehydrate quickly in Haiti.
5. DO - Be sensitive to the Haitian culture when dressing to go into their space.
6. DO - Be frugal in use of resources (e. g., water, electricity). These are precious in Haiti.
7. DO - Remember you are a representative of our Lord and Savior at all times.
1. DON’T - Drink any water except what you get at mission headquarters. We use only Culligan purified water for drinking at mission headquarters.
2. DON’T - Rinse your toothbrush in tap water after brushing. Keep a bottle of purified water handy for this purpose, or just dry with paper.
3. DON’T - Eat anything except what you bring from the U. S. or what is served at mission headquarters.
4. DON’T - Separate yourself from the team without notice and approval of the team leader. In any case, do not go unaccompanied into questionably safe areas.
5. DON’T - Give money or treats to beggars. You may be bombarded with youngsters saying, “Give me one dollar” beginning at your arrival at the Cap Haitien airport.
6. DON’T - Give out treats (i.e., to children) unless you have enough to give equally to everyone there.
7. DON’T - Eat in front of hungry Haitians. Most eat only one simple meal per day, and they will surely be hungry when you are with them. Eating during outings may have to be portable snack items and eaten off-schedule or while traveling to or from the destination.
8. DON’T - Give out things directly or openly to new-found friends in Haiti. Put them in bags with tags naming the recipients and leave them at mission headquarters. The National Director will see that they are discreetly distributed.
9. DON’T - Be reluctant to ask questions!